Shake it Down Baby !

2 06 2008

Late May BH weekend, Rich and Donna ask “wanna join us for a tandem shakedown trip around kent ? “, “on or off road ?” …”on, getting ready for Denmark”.  Hmmm?  In the blink of an eye “OK then, sounds great”.  The Tandem Shakedown Trip was born.

Rich and Donna wanted to do a dry run all packed up with everything they need for 2 weeks travelling in Denmark taking in the Rosskilder (sp?) Festival watching Rich’s fav band, Radiohead, along the way. 

Slicks fitted, check.  Racks fitted, check.  Camping equipment packed, check.  Lightweight gadgets galore packed, check.  Spare shoes, check.  Spare shoes ? …a girl can never have too many shoes but you should have heard the moans from Rick about being minimal.  I was being minimal, I only took ONE spare pair lol !

Rick and I had only ever rough camped overnight on the Downs before, while doing the SDW over previous years, so the concept of onroad touring was new to us.  We might hate it, we might love it, the dark side was being dabbled with either way …

Setting off from Battle we packed up and headed off with our unweildy machines.  Panniers, bar bags, rucksaks you name it we had it and so long as you never stopped pedalling it was actually quite stable 🙂  Aim of day one, 44 miles along back lanes to the North of Ashford.  Just saying made me feel a bit strange, north of’s a flippin long way you know.  The weather was glorious and we’re doing our best to ignore the rubbish forecast for the rest of the weekend.  So bad, 2 other pals pulled out for fear of a soaking.  Rick and Donna had kindly plotted the route and with a handsfree navigator on the back of said tandem we started clocking up the mileage without many stops. 

Bit hilly over The Weald you know, short sharp climbs winching all that gear slowly upwards then rewarded with a swift fast blast the other side, to then winch your way up again, get the picture?  The lanes were reasonably quiet but the headwind was building and by the time we hit the Rother Levels we were drafting as much as possible to save energy.  Being blasted head on.  Lucky pub stop serving gorgeous food and a cider festival taking place killed an hour then back on the bikes after a bit of saddle fettling.  It was the purpose of the trip and we were in no hurry.  Small Hythe Place visited enroute by those who wanted it and a nap on the grass for those who didn’t.  Then the hills started again and continued their rollercoaster as we headed towards Ashford. 

6.45pm nearly there, booked into nearest pub for some grub later then off up a massive climb onto the Pilgrims Way and our campsite.  Tents up, wine opened (they were small bottles), crackers consumed, showers had then walk to pub for fantastic grub and a few beers.  What a great day, knackering but great.

It absolutely hammered down with rain all night keeping us awake with thoughts of riding in it tomorrow.  8.45 rain subsiding, tents cracked open, tea and breakfast soon on the boil and breaking camp.  Rick and I manage a quick blip on the tandem before it’s packed up with luggage, what a laugh, always fancied a go.  Quite tempting….anyway…awful forecast meant we reduced our mileage from 54 (thank god) to 34 (much more respectable on tired legs). 

Not far up the road, after a quick puncture fix on dodgy corner (note to self – get slimes for roadbike), the sun starts streaming and once we hit the viewpoint it’s scorchio..can’t believe it but not complaining.  Suncream on (interesting smell, bit like primula) then wind our way across the lanes toward the Owl Sanctuary – SHUT, then to the Watermill – SHUT.  Bank Holiday weekend and all the tourist traps shut, what’s going on !!  Oh well we’ll just have to play Cowslip Jousting.  Rules are simple grab cowparsley from hedges (careful not to get nettles) and throw at chosen victim on bike beside you.  Whiles away many an hour if you’re lucky.  Unfair advantage soon to be spotted, stealth bomber on back of tandem who can pedal, stock ammo and bomb all in one swift motion.  Clever tictacs were in order…we never did think of any though.  Oh well, another lovely pub lunch in a deserted village beckoned, lazingin the sunshine, chatting to locals interested in our trip then onward & more saddle fettling.   Eventually through Tenterden, off to new camp arriving in the still blazing sunshine.  Tents up, seeking every drop of shade this time, cracked open the remaining vino and toasted our success.  Another good ride. 

Taxi tonight to the pub ?  Out voted back on bikes and down the bumpy back roads to a very fortuitous indian restaurant 2 miles nearer than expected.  Hurrah !   Stocked up with curry and beer we managed pedalled back to camp and sat outside consuming beer cunningly disguised in our water bottle carriers.  Nice !

Day 3 the homeward leg.  Chucked it down with rain again all last night we woke in a puddle and the inside of tent soaking wet.  Thanks to airbeds we weren’t but I feel a new purchase coming on…campsite was flooded and the bins filled with mangled tents thrown away by disgruntled campers.  Packed away, waterproofs on, we squelched our way out.  Amazingly no one wheelspinning.  Bloke in tent next to us was an MTB’er from Redhill…how queer !

It was a grey day today and the roads were flooded but amazingly we didn’t get rained on.  5 mins down the road was a vineyard, 10.30am too early for a tasting, not likely, in we went, purchasing lovely english wine for later.  Gradually the roads dried out but the grey didn’t disappear and with tired legs we plugged our way back towards Battle and the Medieval Festival.  Thoughts of Hog Roast keeping the pedals spinning.  26 miles later and feeling a bit testy, we hit town.  With clouds threatening we parked bikes and took over the local tea shop ordering massive amounts of glorious food.  After a few laughs with Rich’s parents we wandered the Medieval Festival tasting wine and cheese, more purchases for later, then trundled back to our cars just outside town. 

Jubilant on our return, proud of our achievement, the Shakedown complete.  Lists had been made with a few changes, new lightweight purchases already being considered, but otherwise a successful mission for Rich and Donna.  We loved it too, there’s a real buzz from getting yourself from A to B carrying everything you need on your steed.  We’re definitely going to do it again not sure what terrain or where but it’ll definitely be before summer’s out so watch this space.  Why not give it a go, I really fancy this little number but it’s only 1 person suppose I could always leave Rick at home and take the spare shoes with the weight I’d save on the tent !!   As if I would…. Lisa

Clicky link for trick cycling tent:





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